It was the first home game of the season. I was sitting in the bleachers right next to the band, right next to my sousaphone player. We were talking about the day, the upcoming competitions, the wonderful weather.
And then the announcement came over the loudspeaker: ‘Please rise for our national anthem.’
At that moment my sousa player turned to me, as she hoisted her instrument onto her shoulder. She looked me straight in the eye, and commanded loudly enough for everyone around us to hear, ‘Please rise!’
I’m not sure if she was telling me to rise because she knew I didn’t want to, or telling me not to rise, because she knew I didn’t want to.
Time seemed to stand still as my head began to spin. I hadn’t thought about this beforehand. Without even realizing I was moving, I rose to my feet and brought my hands behind my back. I was squeezing my left wrist with my right hand and scanning the crowd to see if anyone was sitting, or kneeling.
I looked at my Sousa girl and I half-said half-asked ‘I should take a knee?’ just as they struck the first note.
As my grip tightened, my eyes searched for someone, anyone to give me a sign, some sort of sign that they were as uncomfortable as I was in this moment. A sign that they understood that the things going on in our messed up world don’t stop when our kids are out on the field. A sign that they realize there are real issues that must be addressed. A sign that they know we are in the midst of something, a change that is coming, a revolution that is stirring. A sign that together we can be a small part of it all.
I kept searching for something. Anything. I felt like I was drifting alone and I needed someone to throw me a line.
And then I saw it. She was standing there with her hands in her pockets. They were not on her heart. She was not singing. She looked uncomfortable. I wasn’t the only one.
A few minutes later when she came up to sit next to me, she said ‘I heard you talking. Were you thinking of taking a knee?’
And the tears began to well up in my eyes and my body began to shake a little bit.
Because I was thinking of doing it. And because I hadn’t done it.
‘I’m so mad at myself that I didn’t do it. I shouldn’t have stood up.’ I could feel the heat reddening my face.
‘You really have to be down on the field for it to make an impact.’ she said. At least I think that’s what she said. I couldn’t hear it over the sound of the deafening heart pounding hypocrisy in my head.
‘But I should’ve done it.’ I said. ‘I should have.’
For her. I should’ve done it for her. For her son. Her son whom I know and love. For his siblings. For the handful of other black and brown kids in the overwhelmingly white crowd.
‘What if I did it?’ She said. ‘Imagine if I did it. That would really make people uncomfortable.’
‘And they should be! They should be uncomfortable!’ I said, as I sniffed the snot in my nose and wiped a tear from my eye.
I had to pull myself together. I was a bit of a mess.
Was anyone else an uncomfortable mess? Was anyone else mad at themselves for standing? Did anyone else feel complicit? Was anyone else shaken?
I’m still shaken. I’m still tearful. And I’m sorry.
There’s another game next week.
What will I do next week?
Wake Up, Rage Against the Machine